Anglo-Irish Music: 1750-1800

From A History of Irish Music by William H. Grattan Flood

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Chapter XXVI....concluded

In 1779 Giordani and Lini took the Capel-street Theatre as an opera house, but they became bankrupt in 1781,[18] and both returned to London. In January, 1782, Richard Daly produced O'Keeffe's Son-in-Law at Smock-alley Theatre. This play (first given in London by Colman in 1779) was rendered attractive by the number of Irish airs introduced into it, especially a few of O'Carolan's.[19] O'Keeffe himself tells us that Dr. Arnold arranged the airs of many of his songs, and found no small difficulty with them. Sir John Stevenson (who was appointed a stipendary at St. Patrick's Cathedral, July 20th, 1775, in which year he gained the Catch Club's prize for his glee, "One night while all the village slept,") composed some airs for O'Keeffe's Dead Alive in 1780, which was performed with success in June, 1781. This play was followed by The Agreeable Surprise, in which Irish airs are largely drawn on, having been supplied by Vernon to Dr. Arnold. O'Keeffe's opera of the Banditti (November, 1781) contains "Ceann dub dilir" and "Sa Muirnin dilir"—the latter air being until then only known by its Irish words. This opera was revised and renamed The Castle of Andalusia, with two new airs by Giordani. The Poor Soldier (1783) was arranged by Shield, mostly to O'Carolan's airs, chosen by O'Keeffe.

In April, 1784, Daly produced Gluck's opera, Orpheus and Eurydice, with Tenducci and Mrs. Billington as the stars. On July 9th of the same year the famous "Douglas" riot occurred, when the Duke of Rutland was present on a command night at the Theatre Royal—Home's Douglas being the play. At the rising of the curtain the audience insisted on the "Volunteers' March" being played by the orchestra, which was accordingly done; but no sooner did Home's fine tragedy begin than the whole house, to mark their disapproval of the Viceroy's recent action in refusing to sanction the petition of the Dublin Corporation in favour of Reform, would not allow the play to proceed, and the Duke of Rutland had to retire, to the accompaniment of the "Volunteers' March."

Kane O'Hara, the author of Midas (1760), The Golden Pippin (1772), The Two Misers, Tom Thumb (1780), etc., died at his house in Dublin, June 17th, 1782. He was a fine musician, and is praised by Michael Kelly. From the year 1778 he was totally blind, but kept up to the last his interest in music. With him died the Academy of Music.

In 1783 Mr. Robert Owenson opened Fishamble-street as a "National Theatre," the inaugural piece being Jephson's The Carmelite, followed by O'Keeffe's Poor Soldier. Lady Morgan, Owenson's daughter, tells us that "the overture consisted of Irish airs, ending with the 'Volunteers' March,' which was chorussed by the gallery to an accompaniment of drums and fifes." This venture was short-lived.

From 1780 to 1786 concerts were held twice a week during the summer season in the Round Room, Rotunda, for the benefit of the Rotunda Hospital. For these concerts the very best talent was procured, and Irish musicians who were forced to go abroad to become prophets, came back at handsome fees. Andrew Ashe, who had been principal flute at the Brussels Opera House, appeared at these concerts in 1782, and, in 1791, was engaged by Salomon for the Hanover-square concerts.

On May 3rd, 1787, a Handel Commemoration was given in St. Werburgh's Church by "amateurs of the highest distinction," including Sir Hercules Langrishe, Baron Dillon, Surgeon John Neale, Lady Portarlington, and Hon. Mrs. Stopford. In the following year, on April 12th and April 16th, a similar festival in honour of Handel was given in Christ Church Cathedral in aid of local charities, and on both occasions "the ladies laid aside their hats, feathers, and hoops."

In November, 1787, Richard Daly reopened Smock-alley and Crow-street, both of which houses had been renovated and decorated—Crow-street, in particular, being practically rebuilt. To the band of Smock-alley, on the initiative of Mr. Bartlett Cooke, as before stated, is due the establishment of the Irish Musical Fund Society for the relief of distressed musicians. In 1794 it was incorporated, and we read that "such was the feeling excited in the House of Commons upon that occasion that the Speaker and all the officers relinquished their fees."

About the year 1781, Catholic services, in consequence of Lord North's Relief Bill, began to attract attention by reason of the introduction of organs, and, in many places, small orchestras. The earliest book on the Church Plain Chant, was printed and published in 1782 by an Irishman, John P. Coghlan, in London. In Part II. of this rare publication are Anthems, Litanies, Proses, and Hymns "as sung in the public chapels at London." The book is in three parts, and contains two settings of the Tantum Ergo by Stephen Paxton; also motets by Samuel Webbe.

In April, 1789, Giordani composed a Te Deum for the recovery of King George III., which was sung for the first time at the conclusion of High Mass in the old chapel of Francis-street, Dublin, by Archbishop Troy. At this performance were present the leading Catholics, and also many distinguished Protestants, e.g., the Duke of Leinster, the Earls and Countesses of Belvedere, Arran, and Portarlington, the Countesses of Carhampton and Ely, Lords Tyrone, Valentia, and Delvin, Messrs. Grattan, La Touche, etc.

In 1789 the Fishamble-street Music Hall was taken by the Honourable Society of King's Inns, who relinquished it, however, in less than two years, when it was again acquired as a Private Theatre, by the Earl of Westmeath and Frederick E. Jones, the opening performance, on March 6th, 1793, being the Beggar's Opera and the Irish Widow.

Dr. Langrishe Doyle (Organist of Armagh Cathedral from 1776 to 1780) who was appointed Organist of Christ Church Cathedral in 1780, was given the post of Organist of Trinity College Chapel in 1781. He was a very brilliant Irish musician, and in 1784 was elected a full Vicar of St. Patrick's Cathedral. His powers began to fail in 1804, and he was given an assistant on November 25th, 1805, in the person of William Warren, his nephew.

Music was patronised by the Earl of Camden, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and in 1795 he knighted William Parsons, Mus. Doc., Master of the King's Band of Musick, who often visited Ireland. Stevenson, who obtained Mus. Doc. of Trinity College in 1791, was at this date coming into prominence, but he did not receive his knighthood till 1803—being the second musical knight.

Timothy Geary (also known as Thomas Augustine Geary) was a very promising Irish composer. Born in Dublin in 1773, he graduated Mus. Bac. in 1792, and wrote some glees, duets, and songs (most of which were sung by Dr. Spray). He was drowned in November, 1801.

On August 12th, 1797, Frederick E. Jones purchased Daly's patent of Crow-street Theatre—Smock-alley having been closed three years previously.[20] Unfortunately, the political atmosphere from 1795 to 1800 did not make for harmony in any sense of the word, and hence many distinguished Irish musicians obtained their triumphs elsewhere. Tom Cooke, who was leader of the band at Crow-street in 1798, was afterwards a great star in London. John Field, who was a boy pianist in 1798, and was afterwards apprenticed to dementi, invented the Nocturne. William Southwell patented the Irish damper action for pianofortes in 1794, and subsequently invented the cabinet piano. Henry Mountain was leader of the band at Covent Garden, and was praised by Haydn. Andrew Ashe was leader of the Bath concerts in succession to Rauzzini. John Moorehead was a marvellous Irish violinist and composer, and played at the Worcester Festival in 1794. Thomas Carter was musical director of the Royalty Theatre, Goodman's Field's, and composed the comic opera Just in Time, in 1792, for Covent Garden. Another Thomas Carter, of Dublin, was musical director of the Calcutta Theatre, but returned to London in 1793 where he died in 1800.[21] John Mahon was a famous clarinet player, and performed at the Birmingham Festivals from 1802 to 1811.

Probably one of the best evidences of the cultivation of music in Ireland in the latter half of the eighteenth century is the number of music publishers and musical instrument makers in Dublin at that period. In 1800 there were ten flourishing music shops, namely, Rhames, Gough, Hill, Hime, Lee, Holden, M'Calley, M'Donnell, Power, and Southwell, nearly all of which were music-publishing firms. There were also eight harpsichord and piano manufacturers, and three makers of wind instruments—also makers of pedal harps, Irish harps, bagpipes, and fiddles, and two organ builders. The two Protestant Cathedrals could boast of as fine services as in any English place of worship. As yet the Catholics were only just emerging from the Catacombs. And, on August 1st, 1800, the royal assent was given to the iniquitous Act of Union, one effect of which was the disappearance from Dublin of the Lords and Commons—patrons of music and the drama.

END OF CHAPTER XXVI.

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NOTES

[18] On June 24th, 1782, the Irish State Lottery was first drawn at the Opera House in Capel-street.

[19] On January 1st, 1779, John Lee, of Dublin, published the fourth edition of Carolan's Old Irish Tunes, price, 3s. 9d., at No. 70, Eustace-street.

[20] On the site of Smock-alley Theatre stands the Church of SS. Michael and John, which was opened in 1815.

[21] For notices of both the Carters see the new edition of Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1904).


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